Enjoying a sidewalk-melting summer’s day at home in Portland, Oregon, feel-good sludgesters Red Fang are laid-back and ready to take the dog for a stroll before the heat oppresses all activities entirely. In such an idyllic and quiet landscape, it’s hard to imagine that responsible pet owner, community activist, and guitarist/vocalist Bryan Giles is equally responsible for constructing some of stoner rock’s most revered anthems.
Reflecting on a two-year long tidal wave of tribulations, Giles is pragmatic when it comes to the coping mechanisms his band was forced to adopt in order to adapt. “To tell the truth we didn’t get together for the first year and a half of the pandemic, so it really did cramp our rehearsal time,” says Giles. “But on the plus side my little silver lining is that I did hunker down and figure out how to use some home recording [technology]. I did not want to do it. My whole life I was like ‘I do not want a computer to have anything to do with my music.’ I thought playing music should be a 12-pack of beer and your dudes. I was pretty vehement about that, and then I realized if I didn’t do that I wasn’t gonna make music, so I changed my tune. And I’m really glad because it has been helpful and I think it will continue to be helpful as far as sharing ideas outside of practice cuz we’re getting older and finding the time to all get together proves more difficult. So, this old dog has a new trick!”
Beyond adept when it comes to the ‘old trick’ of pounding out dire yet good-natured heavy rock bangers, Giles and his mates; lead guitarist Dave Sullivan, bassist/vocalist Aaron Beam, and percussionist John Sherman conjured up massive riffs for their fifth studio LP, Arrows (Relapse Records, 2021), while ensuring tracks were crafted with the band’s lugubrious, and very physical, sense of humour. Accompanied by ‘highly’ entertaining videos for the songs “Why,” “Arrows,” and most recently the self-immolating “Rabbits In Hives,” Red Fang’s latest album overflows its banks with lava flow power and stinging irony.
“Right off, I would assume it’s being compared to Murder the Mountains (Relapse Records, 2001) because [producer] Chris Funk worked on it. So, maybe it has the same kind of textural things happening. I’m proud of the record, we tried some new stuff out – and that’s probably the last thing anyone wants to hear from a band that they care about. ‘Something new? Oh, God! Help me!’ or whatever. Anyway, if they think it sounds like egg salad – as long as they like the taste of egg salad – go with it!”
Reasserting their Alpha status with Arrows, the four-man wolfpack closed the nail-biting five-year gap that had been gnawing at fans since the appearance of 2016’s Only Ghosts (Relapse Records). “It felt very free to bring different ideas to the table,” Giles explains. “We’ve always had the philosophy that there’s no such thing as a Red Fang song that you can describe. But if the four of us agree to play it – it’s a Red Fang song. “My Disaster” is a song on there that I’m really happy about because it came together so quickly and it just felt really good. Sometimes you get caught up in the incidentals of songwriting…and who really cares? I think that song dodged a lot of those pitfalls.”
He continues. “If I have to play one note the whole time and that serves the song then my ego is taken out of it, we want the song to be good no matter whether it lands me in Guitar Player Magazine or not! Not that I’m in any real danger of that!”
Now, with channels reopening, electrons sparking, and engines firing on all cylinders Red Fang has chewed through their restraints and taken Arrows out on the road. Having successfully conquered a European/U.K. tour that saw them mount stages at metal fests such as Copenhell, Freak Valley and Hellfest (to name a few), Red Fang has turned their attention to North America and is salivating at the opportunity to “Murder the Mountains” as they rampage across the western half of the continent.
As guitarist/vocalist Giles so aptly puts it: “The global pause-button has been released!”
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